Macrophytes (wetland plants) provide many ecosystem services including climate regulation, nutrient cycling, water storage, and habitat for fish, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. Macrophytes provide the physical structure of the wetland and release oxygen into the water and sediments through their leaves and stems to be used by other organisms (Croft 2007). Macrophytes are also important in removing contaminants from the water, preventing floods by taking up large amounts of water, and stabilizing our shorelines by holding sediments in place. Macrophytes are an extremely diverse group of plants and different species exist in wetlands of variable water quality conditions (amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, turbidity). Due to this factor, macrophytes are excellent predictors of water quality because any change in water quality will be should be reflected in the plant community composition of the wetland (Croft and Chow-Fraser 2007). For example, common bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) is an indicator of good water quality, and Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) is an indicator of poor water quality.
What can you do to help?
Get involved as an URBAN volunteer with the Volunteer Aquatic Plant Survey (VAPS). This program was piloted in Georgian Bay in 2006-2007 with great success, and we’ve decided to implement it in the Hamilton Region. Since wetland plants are sensitive to changes in water quality, it is important to limit excess inputs of phosphorus and nitrogen. Get involved in local issues such as sewage treatment plant upgrades and related infrastructure issues related to water output into natural systems.
Marsh plant surveys require arranging your own travel to a wetland assigned by the Coordinator, but we will try to make them convenient for the participant. Monitoring marsh plants requires attending the annual spring workshop for training. Each survey should take no more than an hour or two. Each survey location should be visited once per year between July 15 and August 15. These surveys involve canoeing or wading through the wetland using chest waders or rubber boots to survey the different plant communities (submergent, floating, and emergent vegetation).
Aquatic plants can be grouped in the following categories. Please select the category to view plants of that type.